Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Penn Researchers Find Neural Signature of ‘Mental Time Travel’

19.07.2011
Almost everyone has experienced one memory triggering another, but explanations for that phenomenon have proved elusive. Now, University of Pennsylvania researchers have provided the first neurobiological evidence that memories formed in the same context become linked, the foundation of the theory of episodic memory.

The research was conducted by professor Michael Kahana of the Department of Psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences and graduate student Jeremy R. Manning, of the Neuroscience Graduate Group in Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. They collaborated with Gordon Baltuch and Brian Litt of the departments of Neurology and Psychology at the medical school and Sean M. Polyn of Vanderbilt University.

Their research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Theories of episodic memory suggest that when I remember an event, I retrieve its earlier context and make it part of my present context,” Kahana said. “When I remember my grandmother, for example, I pull back all sorts of associations of a different time and place in my life; I’m also remembering living in Detroit and her Hungarian cooking. It’s like mental time travel. I jump back in time to the past, but I'm still grounded in the present.”

To investigate the neurobiological evidence for this theory, the Penn team combined a centuries-old psychological research technique — having subjects memorize and recall a list of unrelated words — with precise brain activity data that can only be acquired via neurosurgery.

The study’s participants were all epilepsy patients who had between 50 and 150 electrodes implanted throughout their brains. This was in an effort to pinpoint the region of the brain where their seizures originated. Because doctors had to wait for seizures to naturally occur in order to study them, the patients lived with the implanted electrodes for a period of weeks.

“We can do direct brain recordings in monkeys or rats, but with humans one can only obtain these recordings when neurosurgical patients, who require implanted electrodes for seizure mapping, volunteer to participate in memory experiments,” Kahana said. “With these recordings, we can relate what happens in the memory experiment on a millisecond-by-millisecond basis to what's changing in the brain.”

The memory experiment consisted of patients memorizing lists of 15 unrelated words. After seeing a list of the words in sequence, the subjects were distracted by doing simple arithmetic problems. They were then asked to recall as many words as they could in any order. Their implanted electrodes measured their brain activity at each step, and each subject read and recalled dozens of lists to ensure reliable data.

“By examining the patterns of brain activity recorded from the implanted electrodes,” Manning said, “we can measure when the brain’s activity is similar to a previously recorded pattern. When a patient recalls a word, their brain activity is similar to when they studied the same word. In addition, the patterns at recall contained traces of other words that were studied prior to the recalled word.”

“What seems to be happening is that when patients recall a word, they bring back not only the thoughts associated with the word itself but also remnants of thoughts associated with other words they studied nearby in time,” he said.

The findings provide a brain-based explanation of a memory phenomenon that people experience every day.

“This is why two friends you met at different points in your life can become linked in your memory,” Kahana said. “Along your autobiographical timeline, contextual associations will exist at every time scale, from experiences that take place over the course of years to experiences that take place over the course of minutes, like studying words on a list.”

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Mental Health and the Dana Foundation.

Evan Lerner | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.upenn.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Malaria Already Endemic in the Mediterranean by the Roman Period
27.07.2017 | Universität Zürich

nachricht Serious children’s infections also spreading in Switzerland
26.07.2017 | Universitätsspital Bern

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Physicists Design Ultrafocused Pulses

Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.

Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Programming cells with computer-like logic

27.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Identified the component that allows a lethal bacteria to spread resistance to antibiotics

27.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Malaria Already Endemic in the Mediterranean by the Roman Period

27.07.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>